Ship Robert of Bristol 1921

Captain Harding

Ship Robert of Bristol


To return to Jaque a Jaques; we met there the Robert of Bristol, Captain Harding who sailed from Sierraleon before us having purchased thirty Slaves whereof Captain Tomba mentioned there was one; he gave us the following melancholy Story. That this Tomba, about a Week before, had combined with three or four of the stoutest of his Country-men to kill the Ship’s Company, and attempt their Escapes, while they had a Shore to fly to, and had near effected it by means of a Woman-Slave, who being more at large was to watch the proper Opportunity. She brought him word one night that there were no more than five white Men upon the Deck and they asleep bringing him a Hammer at the same time (all the Weapons that she could find) to execute the Treachery. He encouraged the Accomplices what he could with the Prospect of Liberty, but could now at the Push, engage only one more and the Wolman to follow him upon Deck. He found three Sailors sleeping on the Fore-castle, two of which he presently dispatched, with single Strokes upon the Temples; the other rousing with the Noise his Companions seized; Tomba coming soon to their Assistance, and murdering him in the same manner. Going after to finish the work they found very luckily for the rest of the Company, that these other two of the Watch were with the Confusion already made awake, and upon their Guard and their Defence soon awaked the Master underneath them, who running up and finding his Men contending for their Lives took a Hand-spike, the first thing he met with in the Surprize, and redoubling his Strokes home upon Tomba, laid him at length flat upon the Decks, securing them all in Irons.

The Reader may be curious to know their Punishment: Why, Captain Harding weighing the Stoutness and Worth of the two Slaves, did, as in other Countries they do by Rogues of Dignity, whip and scarify them only; while three other, Abettors, but not Actors nor of Strength for it, he sentenced to cruel Deaths: making them first eat the Heart and Liver of one of them killed. The woman he hoisted up by the Thumbs, whipp’d, and slashed her with Knives before the
other slaves till she died.

Elizabeth Donnan Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America. Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1931, p.266; Also in Mary Johnston’s Slave ship (1924), pp. 211-216